Theatre Works and Gavin Roach proudly present the Australian premiere season of A Hundred Words for Snow – a compelling coming-of-age story. With polar bears!
Before penning the work, UK writer and director, Tatty Hennessy, travelled to the Arctic Circle on a research trip to immerse herself in the world of the play. A Hundred Words for Snow is a deep and frank look at teenage female sexuality, desires, fear and experiences but also addresses colonisation and the fact the term “Eskimo” is a derogatory term as well containing strong themes relating to climate change.
Lead actor, Eddie Pattison, instantly loved the work and, on first reading, was sitting there crying and smiling in equal measures. “It’s different from anything I’ve read before, especially in the kind of voice and vibrancy it gives to a teenage girl,” says Pattison. “This isn’t a show about someone’s insecurity, or their questioning of themselves, it’s a show about someone who knows exactly what they want. The text doesn’t waste our time justifying that because it doesn’t need to.”
Pattison describes her character, Rory, as the most fully formed, well written, funny, devastatingly earnest, and cynical character they have ever been handed. “I have never seen a teenage character that felt this real to me, they often feel like an accurate adult interpretation of the process of growing up, but never real, ” says Pattison. “Not Rory. Rory is a person, complicated, detailed, and contradictory, she has a mission, a goal, a plan, and the kind of bold blinding faith in themselves that you can’t carry past high school. Rory isn’t some awkward half formed thing; in fact I want to be more like Rory when I grow up.”
Pattison says it’s a show about grief, and that grief is a messy thing.
Pattison believes we all have our own relationship with grief, it’s unavoidable, but it’s also a big mystical thing in our world. It’s a big deal, we treat it like a big deal, and we expect it to be a big deal. But, adds Pattison, what no one prepares you for is how normal it is, how normal it all looks, and how devastatingly disrespectful that normality feels when you have lost someone so special and wonderful and unique.
“The funeral will never be grand enough, the eulogy will never capture who they truly were and at some point you will look around and realize this is all happening on just another Thursday,” they say. “So sometimes you need to say fuck that and do the biggest thing you can possibly think of, an act as large as the hole this person left, to prove that there was no one else like them and no shitty little funeral will ever be enough for them.”
Pattison explains that this is a show about perspective in large part. About who you think your parents are when you’re a teenager and your honestly quite narrow view of their lives. As a one person show, Pattison believes hearing just from Rory drives that home.
This is about her take on the situation, what she thinks is right and necessary, anyone else’s voice in that would be a distraction.
A VCA graduate, Pattison is a Green Room Award winner (2019, Baby Bi Bi Bi), Melbourne Fringe People’s Choice Award winner (2018, Baby Bi Bi Bi), and Melbourne Fringe Best Cabaret nominee (2018, Baby Bi Bi Bi). They were also part of the team to receive the 2018 Melbourne Fringe Queer Development and Mentorship Award Supported by Midsumma, which culminated in an intensive workshop and mentorship with Yve Blake, the writer and composer of Fangirls the musical.
With a plethora of work under their belt, Pattison doesn’t have a preference in cast sizes, preferring the variety. “So, whatever I’ve just done I’ll want the opposite next.”
As a creative Pattison likes work that feels closer to reality – preferring the mess of humanness. “I like a work that says the most beautiful eye opening thing one second and then cracks a dick joke the next,” they say. “I like works that acknowledge and can handle the awkwardness of trying to get what you want and the brutalness of some people, or the stupidity of others. I get very bored in shows where everyone is very eloquent and smart and clean and clear and knows exactly what they want and what to say. Just not very interesting.”
Pattison acknowledges that it’s been technically challenging trying to keep the show in their head. “I don’t think many people who aren’t artists think about memorisation a lot, but it’s not a one and done thing,” they say. “With something of this size as soon as you don’t touch the script for about a week you start to lose it. We’ve been trying to stage this since 2020 so it’s been a lot of going back to the text and staying kind about getting things wrong that I wouldn’t have a few months ago. But it’s a great show and every time we get back in the room and add a new element, I fall in love with it all over again.”
Pattison says the most inspirational moment so far was the first time they heard the compositions from the shows sound designer Connor Ross. “They’re so beautiful and make my job feel easy,” says Pattison.
Pattison is not a big researcher as an actor, taking only the things as far as the character would know, and for Rory that’s really all in the text. “She doesn’t shy away from taking on the role of educator, so aside from making sure my pronunciation wouldn’t embarrass her I didn’t take it much further,” says Pattison. “But I’ve learnt a lot about the North Pole and the brutality of early exploration, it’s a very uncomfortable reminder of how dangerous the world actually is. It’s a lot easier to find yourself somewhere truly dangerous, even today, than we would like to think about.”
Pattison says, “It’s a show that’ll make you laugh and get a little misty. It’s a show that’ll have you sitting there thinking “Was I like that as a teenager?” Sometimes while looking through your fingers and cringing, but other times while smiling large, wondering if you’ll ever be that ballsy again. It’s a show for anyone who’s attended a funeral and thought ‘This is kind of bullshit.'”
Delayed twice previously due to Covid lockdowns, A Hundred Words for Snow plays at Theatre Works’ new space the Explosives Factory from May 2 – 7
Image: Underground Media